Nutshell: Forget the haters that say RP1 is just a hodgepodge of 80s nostalgia packed in glitter. Because RP1 is a hodgepodge of 80s nostalgia packed in glitter, and that makes it awesome. Spielberg takes a gloriously messy thrill ride of a novel and turns it into captivating eye candy of the highest order. Grade: A
“IT’S FUCKING CHUCKY!”
Story: Wade Watts is a teen living in “The Stacks”, a poor part of Ohio where in the near future most people escape their sad existence by entering the OASIS, a virtual reality where anything is possible. When the creator of the OASIS dies, players find out that there’s an Easter Egg in the game that gives one winner control of the OASIS, and the creator’s vast fortune. Needless to say it’s Game On. Not only because players want to become rich; there’s a corporation called IOI that wants to take over the OASIS and monetize it. Ready, player one?
Genre I’d put it in: Willy Wonka-esque Nostalgia Mind Trip Of Awesomeness
Remake, Sequel, Based-On, or Original: Based on the book of the same name by Ernest Cline. And if you haven’t read it already, read it. It’s really good.
Gotta say: “Get ready for the feel. The feel of real.” And with that advert, RP1 blasts into hyperdrive. Director Stephen Spielberg and screenwriter Zak Penn (along with author Cline) bring this popular book to the screen in such a perfect way that it’s almost impossible to remember a time when we all thought this story could never be made into a film.
But here it is. And it’s a heckuva lot of fun. Of course there’s the absolutely beautiful CGI – with Spielberg at the helm, would you expect anything less? Then there’s the set design, which creates the slums of
Oklahoma City Columbus circa 2044 2045 and the world of the OASIS with the same attention to detail. And the costume department gives the poor and the wealthy believable looks, not to mention the kickass IOI uniforms and virtual reality suits.
Let me circle back to the CGI. Can avatars have chemistry? Because Parzival and Art3mis do. Lots of that has to do with the voice acting by Tye Sheridan (Parzival/Wade) and Olivia Cooke (Art3mis/Samantha), but the ability of the computer effects team to create such lifelike emotions in these avatars is spectacular. Heck, even Aech’s Orc/Uruk-hai-esque avatar gets a few sly grins, and as Aeche, Lena Waithe does a great job. As her real-life counterpart? She’s fantastic. The only voice that pulled me out of this movie? T.J. Miller as evil toady I-R0k. I get that in the OASIS you can be whoever you want to be, so there’ll obviously be people whose voice won’t match their avatar…but all I could think was “Hey, that’s T.J. Miller” every time I heard him. Kinda distracting, and kinda let me know that his character would be more comic relief than Big Bad. Ah well.
So you noticed a few slash-throughs in my review, huh? Well, yeah. That’s because this version of the story does tweak things a bit. But it’s all in service to (dusts off media-type words) “the visual medium of cinema.” Example? Okay, but I’ll be vague. When the “High Five” (Parzival, Art3mis, Aeche, and their friends Sho and Daito) search for the second key to the Easter Egg, things are a whole lot different. It’s a whole ‘nother movie y’all. But keeping to the book would have made it a rather boring bit (truth time: it was a bit wearisome in the novel as well.) But here, it’s not only action packed, but the changes allow all five characters to interact…with surprising and sometimes hilarious results.
I’d go deeper, but to be honest my notes from the screening are a complete mess. I was so into RP1 that I didn’t even want to tear my eyes away. And believe me, my notes suffered for it. But hey, Jason! King Kong! 80’s fashion (keep your eyes peeled for Purple Rain. Just a tip)! Serenity! All this, and so many more Easter Eggs you’ll have to buy the Blu-ray to catch ’em all. I know I’ll be doing just that. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to see it again. That’s right. I’ma pay for a movie. #worthit
#Protip: Love the music in RP1? ME TOO. So here ’tis on Spotify. Enjoy.